Monday, November 30, 2009

It's Monday 11/30! What Are You Reading?

We had a very busy week, visiting family for Thanksgiving. Not a lot of time for reading, but we did listen to some great audio books on our trip!
  • Jamie, 15, who usually reads non-stop, was too busy with his cousins this weekend for much reading! I think he's still reading Ringworld, a classic science fiction novel by Larry Niven. Next on his list is The Shadow Dragon, Book 4 in The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series by James A. Owen, a wonderful fantasy adventure series that features dragons and lots of references to classic characters from kids' literature.
  • Craig is still reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen for school and enjoying it very much.
  • At the start of our road trip on Wednesday, we finished listening to Erec Rex and the Monsters of Otherness by Kaza Kingsley, book 2 of an excellent fantasy series about a 12-year old boy who discovers a hidden magical world.
  • We also listened to Odd and the Frost Giants, written and read by Neil Gaiman (award-winning author of The Graveyard Book), a fun short story of Norse gods, set during the time of the Vikings. I'll post a review here this week.
  • On the way home yesterday, we got into the Christmas spirit with two holiday audio books. First we listened to The True Gift, a Christmas Story, a very sweet holiday story by Patricia MacLachlan (author of Sarah, Plain and Tall).
  • And it wouldn't be Christmas without a good rendition of that Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol. We already have a couple of versions on audio, but yesterday we listened to a new one, performed by Patrick Stewart (aka Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: Next Generation) - excellent!
I'll review these audio books here, so check back! Hope everyone enjoyed the Thanksgiving holidays.

What are YOU reading this week?

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's Monday 11/23! What Are You Reading?

Busy week, with Thanksgiving coming up! Not a lot of time for reading last week:
  • Although I've had to set it down twice to read books for upcoming book group discussions, I'm still working on Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey, book 2 in the dark fantasy series The Resurrection of Magic. Jamie and I both like this series very much.
  • Fifteen-year old Jamie finished The Doom Machine by Mark Teague, a funny, exciting new sci-fi book. He enjoyed it so much that he wanted to read more science fiction, so his Dad searched through his extensive collection of classic sci-fi novels and recommended one....
  • So Jamie started Ringworld by Larry Niven.
  • Craig is still reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen for school and enjoying it very much. We've listened to it (and its sequels) on audio - excellent!
Last week, I posted a review of Sent, book 2 of The Missing, an exciting time-travel series by Margaret Peterson Haddix. We'll be traveling this week to visit family for Thanksgiving, and we'll be taking along a stack of audio books!

What are YOU reading this week?

(What are you reading Mondays is sponsored by J. Kaye's Book Blog)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Middle-Grade Review: Sent

When Sent, Book 2 of Margaret Peterson Haddix’s series The Missing, arrived in the mail, my son and I both grabbed for it. We loved the first book in the time-traveling series, Found, and couldn’t wait to find out what happens next. If you haven’t read Book 1 yet, you may want to skip this review for now (it contains Book 1 spoilers) and check out my previous review of Found. Haddix has a talent for writing exciting and suspenseful series for middle-grade readers that also appeal to teens (and adults!).

Before Jonah and Chip have time to digest the news that they’re both children who were kidnapped from some period of history, they find themselves – along with Jonah’s sister, Katherine, and fellow missing child Alex – hurtling through time, thanks to a device called the Elucidator that they wrestled out of the hands of the bad guys, as JB tries to set history straight:

“Jonah,” JB protested. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Certain things have been set in motion. Chip and Alex have to go to the fifteenth century.”

“Then, Katherine and I are going, too,” Jonah said. He didn’t know how it was possible, but he could feel time flowing past him, scrolling backward. He felt like he had only a few more seconds left to convince JB. “What if…what if we could fix the fifteenth century? Make everything right again? Then couldn’t Alex and Chip come back to the twenty-first century with us?”

When JB reluctantly agrees, the four kids find themselves in a castle in England in 1483, where they discover Chip’s true identity – Edward V, king of England. Alex is his younger brother, Richard, Duke of York. History says they were both murdered, and the four out-of-time kids have to find a way to “fix time,” so that they can return to the home they know.

Although some of the time travel details get a little confusing at times, the book is non-stop action and excitement. It’s also very interesting to learn about how people lived during that time in history and the – true – historical events surrounding them. Haddix did a tremendous amount of research for this book and strived to keep the known facts accurate, as she played with the real-life mystery of the young boys’ disappearance. The result is a fast-paced, suspenseful adventure. I can’t wait for Book 3!

308 pages, Simon & Schuster

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Best Books fo 2009

It's only November, but the lists of Best Books of 2009 have already starting coming out! Some interesting ones:

Publisher's Weekly Best Children's Books of 2009
(includes pictures books as well as fiction and nonfiction for older readers)'s Top 10 Picture Books of 2009's Top 10 Books of 2009 of Middle-Grade Readers's Top 10 Teen/YA Books of 2009

Lots of good holiday gift suggestions here! I'll save my own personal Best of 2009 list until the end of the year.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It's Monday 11/16! What Are You Reading?

The boys and I had a good reading week last week:
  • I started Sacred Scars, Book 2 in The Resurrection of Magic series by Kathleen Duey, a dark and compelling fantasy series that Jamie and I really like. He finished it last week, and I couldn't wait to pick it up!
  • Jamie, age 15, started The Doom Machine by Mark Teague, a fast-paced, humorous science fiction novel about two kids battling aliens. He says it's very good so far.
  • Craig, age 11, is reading a classic, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, for his Language Arts class. We've listened to the audio version before (excellent!), but this is the first time he's read it.
Last week, I posted a review of Hush, Hush, a paranormal romance for teens/YA and a list of the Top Ten Books of My Childhood.

What are YOU reading this week?

Thanks to J. Kaye's Book Blog for hosting What Are You Reading Mondays)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Teen/YAReview: Hush, Hush

I am not normally a big fan of the paranormal romance genre (admission time: I haven’t read the Twilight books!), but I enjoyed Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. Interestingly, I noticed that one reviewer at Amazon complained that it didn’t have “enough” paranormal in it, so I guess you can’t please everyone! I thought Hush, Hush was well written, with an engaging, suspenseful plot, and the audio version that I listened to was very well done.

Nora Grey lives with her mom in Maine in an old house and is a pretty normal teenager, working hard in school and hanging out with her best friend, Vee. She’s never been too hung up on romance, but her mysterious new biology partner, Patch, makes her feel both intrigued and uncomfortable:

Patch’s eyes were black orbs. Taking in everything and giving away nothing. Not that I wanted to know more about Patch. Since I hadn’t liked what I’d seen on the surface, I doubted I’d like what was lurking deep inside. Only, this wasn’t exactly true. I’d liked a lot of what I’d seen. Long, lean muscles down his arms, broad but relaxed shoulders, and a smile that was part playful, part seductive. I was in an uneasy alliance with myself, trying to ignore what had started to feel irresistible.

Then strange things begin to happen, some of them frightening and even dangerous, that make Nora suspect there may be much more to Patch’s past than he’s willing to tell her. Meanwhile, she and Vee meet two new boys who are also interesting, but one of them seems to have secrets of his own. When Vee ends up in the hospital, Nora decides to find answers, no matter where they lead her. The climax is exciting and surprising.

I was completely drawn into this suspenseful story and would recommend the audio version in particular.

400 pages, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Top Ten Books of My Childhood


My Mom taught me to read before I started kindergarten, and once I mastered Go, Dog, Go! (P.D. Eastman), there was no stopping me! I read voraciously throughout my childhood. I devoured Dr. Seuss and the Ant and Bee books (does anyone else remember these?) and soon moved onto chapter books. Many of my favorite series were discovered through my second-grade teacher who read aloud to us at the end of every day (thanks, Mrs. Holzschuh!) These ten books or series were among my all-time favorites:

  • A Wrinkle in Time and all of its sequels by Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  • Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene
  • Trixie Belden series by Kathryn Kenny
  • Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  • Katie John by Mary Calhoun
  • Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume
  • The Borrowers series by Mary Norton
  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
These wonderful books started me on the road of a lifetime love of reading, and I've introduced most of them to my own kids.

What were the favorite books of your childhood?

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's Monday 11/9! What Are You Reading?

Lots of good books read last week. Fifteen-year old Jamie got sick this weekend and had such a hard time choosing a new book to read that he grabbed four of them and had me choose a number! We read lots of series' books this week:
  • Jamie read Charlie Bone and the Shadow by Jenny Nimmo (inspired to go back to this old favorite series by his brother who recently finished it).
  • The book I helped Jamie randomly choose to read next was Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey, book 2 in A Resurrection of Magic series. We both loved the first book, Skin Hunger (I'm next in line for this one!).
  • Eleven-year old Craig is reading The Search for Snout, book 3 in the Alien series by Bruce Coville, one of his favorite authors.
  • I read Sent by Margaret Haddix, book 2 of The Missing series, a time-travel middle-grade/teen series which Jamie and I both love.
And in the books-to-movie category, we watched the DVD of The Spiderwick Chronicles this weekend and enjoyed it very much. Jamie read the first book in the series many years ago, and the movie inspired him to go back and read the books.

Last week, I posted a review of a wonderful new mystery for middle-grade and teen readers, The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt.

So, what are YOU reading this week?

(What are you reading Mondays is sponsored by J. Kaye's Book Blog).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Middle-Grade/Teen Review: The Mystery of the Third Lucretia

I was a huge fan of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books when I was a kid (still am!), so I thoroughly enjoyed reading an exciting new mystery novel, The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt. This book is the start of a new series starring two fourteen-year old girls, Kari Sundgren and Lucas Stickney, who are best friends.

In this first book, Kari and Lucas stumble upon a mysterious man in two different art museums, and before they know it, they’re mixed up in an international art crime. The girls live in Minnesota with their families, where they share an interest in drawing and painting. When Kari’s mom has to travel to Europe for work, the girls are lucky enough to accompany her.

Kari and Lucas visit London’s National Gallery while Kari’s mom is busy at work, and they spot the same foul-tempered man painting in the Rembrandt room that they saw months ago at The Art Institute in Minneapolis. They hurry out of the room and talk about what they’ve seen:

“See, I knew it was the same guy!” Then I added, “I wonder…”

“What he’s doing that makes him think he has to wear a disguise?” Lucas finished for me.


Now we were both quiet for a minute. “What are you thinking?” I asked finally. She had an expression I’d seen before.

“Oh, nothing.”

“Nothing my meep. When you get that look, it usually means you’re making some plan that’s going to get us in trouble.”

“No, no, nothing like that,” she said, trying to sound all innocent.

But I was right. She was planning something. In fact, that afternoon in the National Gallery was the beginning of something that would get us into more trouble – and put the whole Gleesome Threesome in more danger – than we’d ever been in before.

Kari and Lucas come across as real girls, with intelligence and humor (like their habit of substituting meep for swear words!). This realism may be partly due to the fact that the author’s daughter helped her write the book and consulted with her in particular on the characters and dialogue of the two girls.

The suspense builds as pieces of the mystery are uncovered while the girls travel with Kari’s mom from London back home to Minnesota, then to Paris and Amsterdam. I loved the travel aspect of the book, reading about different cities the girls visited, as the mystery deepens and their suspicions build. Like all classic kid detectives before them, they figure things out that the grown-ups miss and become more deeply entangled in sinister events until their very lives are at stake, building to an exciting climax in Amsterdam.

I’m looking forward to reading more Kari & Lucas Mysteries! The second book, Rescuing Seneca Crane, was released in August. To read more about these books and the rest of the series, visit Susan Runholt’s website.

278 pages, Puffin Books (Penguin)

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's Monday 11/2! What Are You Reading?

Hope everyone had a great Halloween weekend! We had a lot of fun, as you can see. Jamie, my 15-year old son, came up with the great idea of dressing up as the Where's Waldo? characters (that's me as Wenda), while Craig, 11, did an excellent impression of an old man!

Not a lot of time for reading last week with soccer, Halloween, and the last week of the marking period, but we each managed to read a little:

  • Jamie is still reading Brisingr by Christopher Paolini, the third book of the Eragon trilogy. It's one of his favorite series ever, and he's really enjoying it.
  • Craig finished Half Magic by Edward Eager (a classic!) and is starting The Search for Snout, book 3 in the Alien series by Bruce Coville, one of Craig's favorite authors.
  • My husband Ken finished Inkspell by Cornelia Funke. He said it was very good; Jamie tells us that book 3 is even better!
  • I finished the audio version of Hush, Hush, a paranormal teen book by Becca Fitzpatrick. I enjoyed it very much and will post a review here.
Also to come this week, look for a review of The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholdt. I got a little behind in reviews while I was sick, but I hope to catch up this week.

So, what are YOU reading this week?